Following the release of all the Lana Del Rey news last week, she officially released her single “Ride” on YouTube, listen for yourself below. After listening to it a few times since then, I have formed a few unfinished thoughts. In Lana fashion it’s very melancholic. Her vocals are extraordinary. She’s more raspy than she’s ever been. That hoarse drawl sounds so weathered and sore. It’s a very convincing sadness a lot of people can connect to. When the chorus comes along, her vocals change from that tortured purr to a bit of that Lana lilt we are all familiar with. She sounds like someone from that Americana past she appropriates from all of the time. I can’t put my finger on it. Someone from the 60s or 70s. Maybe even the 80s. It’s not Stevie Nicks. It’s not quite Janis Joplin. It’s not Joni Mitchell. Maybe it’s Marianne Faithful. At this point I play the song for my father and ask him what her voice sounds like. “Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders,” he says and something clicks. Perhaps, she’s pulling vocal inspiration from all of the above. Her voice is an amalgamation of all of these female vocalists, in the same way she borrows from their styling. Thanks to my dad, when the chorus kicks in, all I hear is Chrissie Hynde now, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Someone on Twitter said that “Ride” is the conclusion to “Summertime Sadness” and I’m still trying to process that. It makes sense. “Driving down the coast going ’bout 99,” she sings on “Summertime Sadness” which correlates with the lyric “I hear the birds on the summer breeze. I drive fast. I am alone in the night. Been tryin’ hard not to get into trouble. but I, I’ve got a war in my mind. So I just ride,” on “Ride.” There is definitely a parallel to be made. She asks her lover to “kiss [her] hard before [s/he] goes” on “Summertime Sadness.” This is the beginning of the end of their romance. “Ride” is the realization that her lover’s gone for good. Whether this lover is dead or alive is yet to be determined. “I drive fast, I am alone in the night. Been tryin’ hard not to get into trouble. But I’ve got a war in my mind,” she sings on “Ride.” Lana is alone now, perhaps driving down the same coast she used to drive down with her lover in “Summertime Sadness.” When she repeats “I just ride. I just ride. I just ride. I just ride,” you can imagine a heartbroken, pensive Lana driving in her convertible or motorcycle (it’s rumored there will be motorcycles in the music video for “Ride”).
This is where I would like to argue that this song is not all melancholy. The repetition of “I just ride” is Lana wrestling with the “war in [her] mind.” How many times have you jumped in your car and drive to clear your head? This is Lana mending her broken heart. This is Lana’s moment to step away from the heartbreak, from the “trouble” she’s been singing about. At the end of the song she proclaims, “I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy. I’m tired of driving till I see stars in my eyes.” This isn’t the same old sad Lana Del Rey song. There’s an anthemic quality to it. A subversive anthem obscured within the structure of a ballad. This is why I’m not disappointed that she is releasing “Ride” as a single instead of the countless tracks that were leaked over the past few months (which don’t even exist on the album proper).
There will always be a part of me that wants her to show the world her trip-hop, fun, pop side. Her fans are the only ones who understand she’s more than just a jaded scorned songstress. She hinted to the world this other side of her when she released “National Anthem” as a single. Since “Ride” is the official single off “Paradise,” I believe she decided not to follow that “Hollywood pop” path that I thought she was embarking on after her quiet/acoustic residencies in LA and NYC. She closed those shows with “National Anthem” which didn’t correlate with the rest of her stripped down set. I felt that she was hinting at something more, something louder, something more playful in the near future. Maybe I was wrong with my assumption that she was ready to show the world another side of herself. Or maybe “National Anthem” wasn’t as successful as she hoped. Perhaps she decided she wanted to be known as a “sadcore” artist. She does it well, why try to convince the larger world that she can also rhyme (“Off to the Races”) or sing a fun exoteric pop song (“Puppy Love” or “Driving in Cars with Boys”)? On “Ride” she worked with producer Rick Rubin, who is known to strip down songs to their naked core. Who knows when the song was actually recorded, but if it happened post-“Born to Die” perhaps she decided to return to her “roots.” The Americana roots she has borrowed from her entire career. Why mess with that formula? It’s the reason we are all still talking about her now.